If you ask most students, they would say that stress is inevitable in college. I can attest to this myself, and I have only been at Hope College for a month. With everything going on in the world, including COVID-19 and an increase in racial injustice, college students are much more stressed out than before. Statistics show that 73% of college students with mental health conditions have experienced a mental health crisis on campus. Along with this, many students are involved in activities on campus that add more responsibilities, which sometimes make it harder to maintain their mental health. We interviewed two Hope students to see how they care for their mental wellbeing.
What are some of the things that you participate in on campus?
Therese Joffre, a sophomore chemistry major, is involved in various activities and academic obligations that keep her busy. Joffre is a chemistry major who is on the pre-health or graduate school track. She is a website manager for TEDx Hope College, Opinion Editor of the Anchor, member of the Hope Republicans, Catholic club, and Pre-health club, participates in the Pull, works as a teacher’s assistant (TA), is a student researcher and a tutor for several science classes and works as a scoreboard keeper for soccer. However, she states this semester’s increase in extracurriculars and responsibilities was not a drastic change for her since she is a sophomore and had a year to learn. In high school, Joffre was also outgoing and involved in many school clubs and sports. She states, “Being involved in so many things in college and balancing it out with school can be hard. College is different from high school.”
Brian Ntwali, a sophomore majoring in economics, also states that finding a balance is doable but takes time. Ntwali is involved in the Markets and Morality club, is a TA for French, a resident assistant (RA), a tutor for economics and French and a leader of a small group Bible study. During RA training, one quote that resonated with Ntwali was, “‘You are a person first, a student and then an RA.’ Having this view in mind and following it helps in balancing things out as a college student.” Ntwali states that without taking care of himself, he can not help effectively in his other responsibilities.
How do you balance school and extracurricular activities?
As a freshman, Joffre struggled to find a balance between excelling in academics and being involved. She barely got any sleep, averaging only about five hours a night. Although it is not something to be proud of, many students can relate to this, myself included. Time management is essential for Joffre. She knows when it is time to grind and work hard and when it’s time to have fun. Most college students find this balance challenging. Thus, Joffre states that it takes practice. She mentions that to keep your mental health in check, you have to be somehow sacrificial with your time and be okay with putting yourself and your mental health first, to which Ntwali agrees. To de-stress, Joffre likes to stay in the house and be in her own company. She believes that it is good to unplug from school and friends; she likes to relax and reflect by sleeping in and reading with a cup of coffee.
On the other hand, Ntwali likes to hang out with friends to destress. However, time alone in prayer, sleeping in and watching a favorite show are also important to him and his mental health.
Why is mental health important?
Joffre believes mental health is more important now than ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She believes being aware of yourself is important; how you feel, how your work and what is important to you are crucial to your mental health. Joffre suggests that taking a break and evaluating your goals can help see if what you are doing aligns with your happiness.
Joffre suggests that students should not be afraid to try things out. Who knows? Students might find their passion by joining clubs and student organizations. College is supposed to be a place for growth and challenge, so one should not be afraid to make a change to further themselves. When students are passionate about the organizations they are involved in, it can improve their mental health. The time spent cultivating that passion does not feel wasted. Instead, it is time well spent doing the things you enjoy.
Both Joffre and Ntwali advise freshmen to take things slow, saying, “Start with two things that you are most passionate about, and then if you have room add more.” Ntwali states that by limiting yourself you can give your best effort to those activities. Joffre and Ntwali encourage students to be vulnerable about their mental health because many other students are going through similar situations. Having somebody to confide in and relate to helps students know they are not alone. Being vulnerable allows people to realize what can harm mental health. Ntwali advises that students pause and identify what is troubling them and what may have caused it.
Both Ntwali and Joffre emphasize that checking in with yourself is essential, but checking in with others is too. Building relationships where students feel safe to express themselves by being honest with their feelings is critical to their mental health.
Here at Hope, there are many resources that students can utilize to get help if they are having a problem with their mental health or need somebody to confide in.
- Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): CAPS is a resource that provides students with licensed counselors who can help them discuss topics that relate to mental health. These include adjustment to college life, dealing with pressures and changes, resolving a life crisis that threatens success in college, coping with problems which stem from medical or physical concerns and how to succeed in college while coping with mental health.
For more information visit: https://hope.edu/offices/counseling-psychological-services/index.html
- Professors: Sometimes students can be more connected with their professors. Hope’s small community lends itself to strong student-professor relationships. The professors are available and have office hours, and most are open to talking about anything. So, build a connection with them because they are here for students and want to see students succeed.
- Campus Ministries: Chaplains in campus ministries are people that students can confide in if they feel comfortable. They are open to talking to you about anything and here to help you work through stressful circumstances.
Mental health is important to students and often is neglected because of all the responsibilities that come with being a college student. However, we should make it our priority since it is crucial for our health. They say no one else can heal or do the inner work for you, but that doesn’t mean you can, should or need to do it alone. Seek help and find someone to trust in and confide in. As Rosemary M. Wixom once said, “As individuals we are strong. Together, with God, we are unstoppable.”